Pied-billed Grebe

General description.

The endearing little Pied-billed Grebe spouts a small head atop a skinny neck and appears almost tailless. His chicken-like beak turns yellow in the winter. An aggressive diver, the Pied-billed Grebe's feet are lobed rather than webbed, giving him the soubriquet "Hell diver." When threatened, the Pied-billed Grebe, by expelling air through his feathers, will slowly descend beneath the water and surface in unexpected places. The entire family of small grebes consumes quantities of feathers, and it is speculated that the reason is to line their stomachs to protect against sharp fish bones. The Pied-billed Grebe's winter plumage is white with the exception of the top of his head and back.

Flight pattern.

With such small wings, the Pied-billed Grebe is a poor flyer, hardly ever seen aloft. The young chicks have solved the problem often by hitching a ride on its parent's backs.

Breeding habits.

Breeding locations for the Pied-billed Grebe include freshwater lakes and slow moving tidal rivers from Vancouver to Nova Scotia. After breeding they move south along the Coast and winter wherever water remains unfrozen.

Calls or song.

A series of "wup" quarter notes followed by "caow" half notes and a sustained "kahoo" whole note. This call is thought to be communication between the pair, and also territorial announcements.

Nesting habits.

The Pied-billed Grebe makes its floating nest of convenient vegetation, anchored to marsh plant life.
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